In a Monday morning panel in which the virtues of digital, and the possibilities of the global digital marketplace, were touted, a trio of speakers talked about the changing face of rights and sales in the market today.
Evan Schnittman, managing director of group sales and marketing for print and digital at Bloomsbury Publishing, kicked off the panel, ‘The Book Is Dead: Long Live the Global Book,’ with a slideshow presentation that focused on the unfortunate state of the Australian book market. Schnittman, who noted that "the Internet respects no border” showed how Australian publishers are being undercut on the sale of print books by digital retailers like Amazon. Walking through an example of how a book buyer in Australia can purchase an English-language book from Amazon UK that costs less, even with shipping costs, than buying it through a local e-tailer, Schnittman demonstrated how the local retailer “is being undone from afar.” Positing the question: Is the Internet Eating Publishing?, Schnittman said that, from this example, it appears it is. The answer? Keeping English-language rights with one publisher. Schnittman said a publisher needs to “protect territoriality by owning all English language rights.” And, in this equation, e-books actually become a boon to print sales since e-books are, as Schnittman noted, “wildly controllable.” Because of the embedded metadata on titles, Schnittman cannot, for example, buy an e-book via Amazon from any other source than Amazon U.S. (Since Schnittman is registered as an Amazon U.S. account holder he is therefore blocked from purchasing e-books sold on Amazon’s other international sites.) For Schnittman, the key for publishers is, “controlling all English language rights and deciding how you will represent the book in the global market.”
Corinne Turner, managing director of Fleming Publications Ltd. (which is the company developed to handle Ian Fleming’s work), talked about exploiting rights in the digital world. Turner, who noted that she has spent the better part of her career “looking after literary estates,” discussed how FPL has managed to seemingly strike a balance in self-publishing while working with its longstanding print partners. Citing titles like the Young Bond series, which FPL self-publishes, Turner said her company “understands just how it easy it is to publish an e-book if you have a high profile brand.” Nonetheless, she noted, working with traditional publishers is a key and necessary focus to maintaining the Fleming brand, and drawing in new readers. To that end, Turner said it is not in any author’s (or estate’s) interest to go into competition with an enthusiastic publishing partner. So, while FPL has gone into some recent digital publishing ventures on its own—it published direct Fleming’s backlist earlier in the U.S. in 2008 and then last year in the UK—it continues to publish anniversary and special editions of Bond print titles with publishers. The key for FPL is that the company is, as Turner explained, is “flexible, adaptable, and able to move quickly.”
Representing Google, and singing the praises of the cloud, Santiago de la Mora delivered a litany of stats about the growing presence of technology in our lives. Noting that 50% of people in the U.S. today have smart phones and that there are 5 billion mobile connections, de la Mora noted that “the global book is a reality.” While a date was never mentioned for the launch of the Google E-book store in the U.K. or Europe—de la Mora answered an audience member by saying only that the rollout is planned for this year—he reasserted that when publishers can access the cloud, with the aid of Google, they will be able to truly promoted their books to a global audience.